Some MMA gyms are filthy little holes in the wall with a few makeshift punching bags and a crazy old Italian coach who has an eerie resemblance to Cus D’Amato and never stops yelling at you to move your feet and keep your hands up. On the other hand, some MMA gyms are decked out with enough marvels of modern medicine and fancy computer-type-shit that they could give The Jetsons a run for their money. Whether you’re looking to get in better shape just in case Ronda Rousey ever responds to your DM, or you want to train day and night to become the next Fedor, it’s important to pick the right gym. No two MMA gyms are alike, and neither are any two fighters, so choose widely young Padawan.
Roufusport Martial Arts Academy
Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA
Roster Highlights: Anthony Pettis, Ben Askren, Matt Mitrione, Jens Pulver
Notable Coaches: Duke Roufus, Ben Askren, Anthony Pettis
Being home to several elite-level fighters who are at the very top of their weight classes and a cavalcade of other top competitors makes Roufusport one of the go-to gyms for striking. They offer courses in Boxing, Kickboxing, BJJ and general MMA classes. The head coach, Duke Roufus, is an accomplished kickboxer in his own right and has had a big influence on the unique style of Anthony Pettis. The famous Showtime kick that helped Pettis secure a win over Bendo to win the final WEC belt is something they had drilled countless times in the gym, a great examples of the deadly precision and unpredictability taught at Roufusport.
Jaco Hybrid Training Center (Blackzilians)
South Florida, USA
Roster Highlights: Vitor Belfort, Rashad Evans, Eddie Alvarez, Michael Johnson
Notable Coaches: Jorge Santiago, Henri Hooft, Kenny Monday, Jake Bonacci
This gym was formed when Rashad Evans decided to break-off from Jackson’s MMA and to start his own gym with a small team of elite level fighters. The expectations were huge at first, and the team didn’t come out with the strongest start. None the less, it seems like the Blackzilians are undergoing a bit of a renaissance lately. Vitor Belfort looked absolutely deadly in 2013, and Rashad was also in top form when he finished Chael Sonnen and made it look easy. Between big win streaks from Vitor and Anthony Johnson and a solid, strong roster . Expect more big things from the Blackzilians in 2014 and don’t be surprised if one of them takes home a belt. For folks like you, they have all sorts of different classes for all ages in a modern, world-class facility.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Roster Highlights: Renan Barao, Jose Aldo, BJ Penn, Junior Dos Santos
Notable Coaches: André Pederneiras
Coached by Paderneiras, the guys down in Rio are taking advantage of top-level BJJ lessons from a black belt under Carlson Gracie yet some of their top guys are very well known for their striking too. This speaks to the ability of this gym to not only draw the best of the best, but also their overall versatility. The Brazilian gym in Rio is nearly their 20th year since being founded, and there are now locations all over the world such as Canada, Italy, the United States and Australia. Their top-tier competitive team is reserved for the cream of the crop, but people like us can take a variety of classes from one of their gyms around the world, check your local N.U. sites to find affiliate gyms near you.
Ultimate Fitness (Team Alpha Male)
Roster Highlights: Urijah Faber, Chad Mendes,
Notable Coaches: Duane Ludwig*
The past year has been absolutely insane for the guys at Team Alpha Male. Since bringing Duane Ludwig on board, their striking abilities across the board have shown massive improvements. Despite a few missed title opportunities, there is no denying that these guys are on a tear. That shouldn’t be a surprise when you’ve got 2013’s coach of the year on your side, along with a stacked roster of mma vets. Despite their small statures, the guys at Team Alpha Male have the hearts of lions.
*It’s worth mentioning that Duane has decided to move to Colorado and to open his own gym after his short tenure as Team Alpha Male’s head coach, but he’ll still be affiliated with the team.
Albuquerque, New Mexico, United States
Roster Highlights: Jon Jones, Travis Browne, Tim Kennedy, Carlos Condit, Gina Carano
Notable Coaches: Greg Jackson, Mike Winkeljohn
Greg Jackson has taken some heat as a trainer, including being called a “sport killer” by Dana White, but you can’t argue with results. Dana might also have been upset that Jackson was coaching Bellator’s reality show. None the less, Greg Jackson has one of the longest resumes out of any MMA coach when it comes to having trained top-level fighters, the roster highlights above are just a small sample of who he’s worked with. Fighters training at Jackson’s have access to great sparring partners along with one of the best striking coaches in the business, Mike Winkeljohn.
American Top Team
Coconut Creek, Florida, USA
Roster Highlights: Robbie Lawler, Hector Lombard, Dustin Poirier
Notable Coaches: Howard Davis Jr, Mike Brown, Ricardo Liborio,
ATT offers the largest MMA training facility in Florida, but it’s not the size that counts – it’s how they use it (Despite every other time you’ve heard that phrase in your life, this time it’s true.) Since 2001, ATT has been home to plenty of mixed martial arts champions, 19 of them in fact. Joe Rogan has even gone so far as to say “In my opinion, American Top Team is the BEST MMA camp in the country!” and on their own website it says they’re #1 so you know they’re legit.
American Kickboxing Academy
San Jose, California, United States
Roster Highlights: Daniel Cormier, Cain Velasquez, Khabib Nurmagomedov
Notable Coaches: Javier Mendez, Bob Cook, Leandro Vieira
AKA is one of the pioneering gyms of MMA, dating all the way back to the mid 1980s. Many of the current UFC champs weren’t even born when AKA was getting started. AKA is home to classes in muay thai, BJJ, wrestling and boxing. Back in 2008, their entire roster was cut from the UFC for less than a day over video game licensing rights. If you’re in the San Jose area, AKA definitely warrants checking out. With such a strong wrestling roster which includes the aforementioned fighters along with Jon Fitch and more, prepare to embrace the grind if you want to fit in around here.
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Roster Highlights: GSP, Rory Macdonald, Patrick Cote, Francis Carmont
Notable Coaches: Firas Zahabi, David Loiseau, Mark Fillipelli
Pretty much every skilled fighter in Canada has trained at TriStar at one time or another (or at least it seems that way sometimes), the most notable being Georges St. Pierre. If you caught the most recent season of The Ultimate Fighter Nations Canada vs Australia, it seemed like 2 out of every 3 guys on Team Canada were from TriStar. It’s not like it’s the only gym up there, but it’s quite possibly the best one. Before you ask, no they don’t offer any courses in laying and praying (At least not to the general public.)
Huntington Beach, California, United States
Roster Highlights: Wanderlei Silva, Jake Ellengerger, Babalu, Fabricio Werdum
Notable Coaches: Rafael Cordeiro
Yet another top gym in California. King’s MMA has a packed weekly schedule and you can get into the mix for about $150. MMA, Muay Thai, Jiu-Jitsu, Women’s MMA, Kid’s programs and specialized professional programs are all available at King’s. They say if you show up at exactly the right moment, as the sun reflects perfectly off of the Pacific, sometimes you’ll even catch a glimpse of the Huntington Beach Bad Boy out front of the gym begging for spare change.
Las Vegas, Nevada, United States
Roster Highlights: Miesha Tate, Brad Tavares, Martin Kampmann
Notable Coaches: Randy Couture, Ray Sefo
While you probably won’t run into Randy in there on the average day teaching any classes, you can probably catch his son Ryan Couture asleep at the front desk more often than not. Not to be confused with the Affliction-like MMA clothing brand of the same name, Xtreme Couture offers quality MMA training facilities in the United States and in Canada. This is like a Hall of Legends, although they don’t have many current contenders, if they have any at all aside from Miesha Tate, Xtreme Couture is still a respected name in MMA training.
Have you trained at any of these gyms?
Leave a comment below with your thoughts on your time there and we’ll add some of the best MMA gym reviews into this list.